The real value of an academic degree — not much.


The Shadow Scholar, by Ed Dante (pseudonym), a paper by a pay-per-project academic ghostwriter, demonstrates how the proliferation of ghost writing has reduced academic degrees and distinction to an expensive commodity enabling nearly anyone of wealth, regardless of incompetence and illiteracy to obtain one, but not those deserving of them.

We are not talking simple plagiarism here — the illicit use of the works of others without permission or proper citation.  Search engines have rendered this type of plagiarism pointless and dangerous.  This is also not a discussion of papers-for-sale databases.  There are indeed many repositories of papers for sale and also software packages purporting to detect fraudulent papers — both highly lucrative business models that feed upon each other in an unholy symbiosis akin to that of viruses and antivirus software. But plagiarism is not really the core problem in academia.

Papers custom crafted for one single use by expert ghost writers earn top dollar, particularly when done to tight deadlines, and are undetectable as fraudulent as they are unique and written to order.  These are not examples of plagiarism, but of pseudepigraphy or false attribution, an infraction to which academic institutions have absolutely no answer and which promises to pose a major threat to the credibility of academic degrees as its presence is generally recognized.

The paper also reveals the existence of a highly educated underclass, writers deserving of a vast array of distinctions in many fields but relegated to servitude as ghostwriter to the affluent.

It is important to understand that, in the highly competitive world of higher education where fellowships, academic advancement, positions, thesis writing and publication acceptance are highly contested, those who do not take advantage of expert assistance and rely instead entirely on their own efforts, research and writing skills are clearly at a disadvantage and in many cases will either lose out to their competition or will give in to the pressure and demands of the current academic climate, capitulate, and join the throngs who take the safer career path and contract for expertise, even if it is only supplementary, and advisory to their own work.

Dante does ask the big question:

For those of you who have ever mentored a student through the writing of a dissertation, served on a thesis review committee, or guided a graduate student through a formal research process, I have a question: Do you ever wonder how a student who struggles to formulate complete sentences in conversation manages to produce marginally
competent research? How does that student get by you? 

He explains also that he is not aware of any client having been challenged or charged with unethical conduct.  Why is this?  One possible explanation is that this is a can of worms that nobody is willing to open as its contents could be perilous as it might spill in many unexpected directions and on many people.  Imagine if there were a major leak of shadow scholar records.  Teachers, professors, chancellors, principals, bishops, senators, judges, police chiefs, military officers, surgeons, etc. might find their credentials compromised.  There may well be a very salient reason for all to tread lightly around an issue involving people with immense power and much at stake.  If you are an academic ethics officer, you probably know already how far you’re not allowed to invesigate, though you may only have a vague notion of what might happen if you were to overstep your mandate.




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